Posted on July 15, 2021 by James Stensel
Success is not a single achievement, it is a series of continued improvements. When going through a divorce, you may want to turn your fate over to your attorney and courts and hope for the best. However, you play a unique role in the outcome and must be an active thinker and smart participant. What you do before, during, and after your divorce will influence the results. If you find yourself thinking about divorce or on the path to divorce, following these ten guidelines may lead to a positive outcome and be some of the best advice that you will receive:
- Think and Plan. If you are thinking about a divorce or facing a divorce filed by your spouse, the first thing you should do is make a plan and act upon it. Do not react. You should have a plan about where to live, what residential time with your children should look like, what child and spousal support is fair and needed, who should pay what bills during the case, and what a fair division of your assets and debts looks like at the end of the case. Do not rely on your attorney to tell you what you should seek. Be an active planner by outlining the outcome and goals that you desire.
- File First. Be the first voice and the first message that the court hears. If you are filing and may need temporary orders in place to provide the “rules of the road” while your case is pending, you should be framing the narrative and issues for the court and not relying on your spouse to do so. As first-to-file, you will be the petitioner. Where filing first allows you to drive the issues and set the stage, your spouse will be stuck spending their time responding to your message and the issues you framed for the court.
- Temporary Orders Often Become Permanent. When a case begins, parties often file motions for temporary orders with regard to such things as residential time with the children, who lives in the marital residence, who has to move out, what financial needs exist for each party, who needs to pay what support to the other spouse, use of property and vehicles, payment of bills, etc. Often the court at the end of a case will look at the temporary orders as instructive on final orders. If you lose on temporary orders, it is less likely that you are going to win on final orders at trial. Where it is easier to defend a win than recover from a loss, the preparation for temporary orders should be diligent and treated as having a significant influence on the potential outcome in your case.
- Spend Quality Time With Your Attorney. Where you are paying by the minute, you should be focused on making good use of your time with your attorney. You are not there to gossip or talk about the weather. Be prepared to describe what you want to know and what you want to talk about. Make a list of your questions, issues, concerns, and priorities. Think about what is most important for your attorney to know and do not be afraid to ask questions. Every meeting and conversation is an opportunity to further develop your case strategy and to address potential issues to create a successful game plan. Capitalize on those opportunities.
- Do Not Give Up Something You Want to Keep. It is going to be far easier for your attorney to argue that you should keep something than to argue that the court should take something away from your spouse and give it to you. Do not voluntarily move out if you want to stay in the house. Do not stop seeing your kids or agree that you spouse can take them when you want to be present in their lives. If there is personal property, do not leave it behind for it to get “lost” or for your spouse to refuse to provide it. If you want it, keep it if you can.
- What You Say and Write is Evidence. Do not say or write something that you do not want repeated to your judge. Think before you speak. Everything you say or put in writing can be used against you. Be positive on paper, in person and in emails. You may be angry and hurt, but you are an actor on a stage and everyone is watching. A reasonable, cooperative, and kind spouse will achieve a far more successful outcome in court than an angry, vengeful, and spiteful spouse. Even if you do not feel like being nice, pretend.
- Do As You Say, and Say As You Do. Live the life that you tell the court you live. Do not tell the court one thing and then do something else. Commit to what you want. Your lifestyle and conduct should match your divorce pleadings. Your lifestyle is your best evidence during divorce. If you say one thing and do something else, you will lose credibility in the eyes of your court commissioner or judge.
- Never Lie. Lies have a way of rising to the top. Once the court knows that you lied about one fact they will not believe you when you talk about other facts. Do not help your spouse beat you by making false statements. Your credibility in court is one of your greatest weapons. Guard it and protect it.
- You Do Not Need a Bulldog Attorney. A bulldog attorney will inject themselves into the case to annoy, harass, and enrage both the other attorney and your spouse for the sake of appearance. This, in turn, will make you feel like your attorney is really fighting for you. However, your case will begin to languish because this will encourage your spouse’s attorney to do the same thing. Then neither attorney is looking for solutions and both are just looking to score points for their clients. Your bank balance, your mental health, your children, and your case will all suffer as your relationships devolve into animosity and hatred. Instead of a bulldog, consider someone focused on the best path forward to resolve your conflicts in a way that avoids the fight or at least reduces the conflict where the fight is inevitable.
- Move On and Be Quiet. After your case is concluded, let it go, and move on. Live your life. Do not hang onto the divorce and do not continue the fight. Keep it to yourself after the divorce when it comes to the new things in your life. If you get a raise, win the lottery, get a new partner, inheritance, etc. do not brag about your good fortune. Final orders can be modified where there are changed circumstances. Do not advertise reasons for your spouse to go back to court.
The Family Law Practice Group at Lasher is here to help with your Family Law issues. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to any of our team.